In Sunday's New York Times Alessandra Stanley offered an assessment of weight loss shows, discussing the extremity of the weights we see on TV. There are, Stanley notes, "supersized" contestants on weight loss spectacles like The Biggest Loser, while "sitcom moms and crime-show detectives are reed thin," but "real women - and the national average is between size 12 and 14 - are certainly not represented on television in any proportion to their actual numbers." But these two extremes are so far from most people's experiences as to be rendered almost absurd, and while "society venerates skinniness," Stanley says, "people identify mostly with those who have trouble measuring up." Which is why the 20-pound weight loss of Queen Latifah on Jenny Craig might be the most brilliant marketing scheme to hit the dieting market in years: it's not based on unattainable goals, says size acceptance blog Big Fat Deal, or concrete ideas of "success" and "failure."Apparently, Jenny Craig was embarrassed after their spokeswoman Kirstie Alley gained back a large amount of the weight she lost on the plan. TMZ points out, "the new plan...get someone who can look good by losing a relatively small amount of weight — In Queen's case, 20 lbs. She looks really good, if not svelte, but if she gains it back it's not going to look like Jenny Craig was a failure." Of course, Jenny Craig commercials are meant to get people to buy their product, whereas shows like the Biggest Loser are primarily meant to entertain. As Stanley said, "There isn't much punch or visual payoff to a loss of 20 or 30 pounds; viewers have come to expect 100- and 200-pound miracles." However, doesn't this drastic, hyper-speed sort of unrealistic weight loss get old after a while, even if it is vaguely aspirational for some? If people identify with weight loss struggles and triumphs, wouldn't they want to see them on a smaller, more realistic scale? Probably not, especially when you consider that the most realistic, healthy cross-section of female figures on television is on a show that takes place fifty years ago. Plus-Size Sideshow [NYT] Jenny Craig's Weight Loss Strategy [BFDblog] Jenny Craig Hits It Big With Queen [TMZ] Earlier: The Retro Women Of Mad Men Are The Most Interesting On TV
While generally I feel pretty tired of the whole "I lost weight and am now a BETTER person" stuff...I think this ad campaign is somewhat different. By not focusing on someone getting thin, but just to a weight that is in fact healthier (and the cholesterol drop is very important)...then the message is a bit different. It's not "get thin like me and you'll be happy!" it's more like "bet healthier and find your perfect weight and be happier"...which I think is more realistic and overall better.
Mind you, the idea that you can't be happy without losing weight is something I don't like. As though being thinner is always being healthier for everyone. It's not.